Yvonne Hines Nearing End of 32-Year Career with ESnet

Yvonne Hines

December 9, 2016

As she looks back on more than 30 years of providing supercomputing and networking support to the DOE research community, ESnet’s Yvonne Hines mentions repeatedly how she took advantage of opportunities to build a better life.  And now, as she looks forward to retiring in January 2017, her plans include helping students learn to read so they can also better themselves.

Hines has first-hand experience in how students can get sidetracked.  After dropping out of high school in the tenth grade to work at minimum wage. After realizing the mistake she had made, she entered U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps center in San Jose, CA where she studied and acquired her California High School Proficiency Examination certificate. Fortunately, a further opportunity arose – the Job Corps and Control Data Corporation (CDC), then a leading manufacturer of supercomputers designed by Seymour Cray, launched the ACET (Advance Career Employment Training) program to help 100+ Job Corps students from all over the United States attend an entry-level training program in the computer field using both PLATO (a computer-aided learning system) and hands-on training at the Control Data Institute (CDI) in Minneapolis, Minn.  Hines scored well on placement tests and trained as a customer engineer – she recently found her acceptance letter to the ACET program dated June 19, 1979.

“With my CDI Customer Engineer Certificate in hand, I began my one-year internship at the CDC facility in Sunnyvale in 1980,” she said. “My first assignment was as a CDC Customer Engineer supporting the computing centers at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and Sandia in Livermore in 1981.”

The NMFECC was an unclassified center supporting fusion energy research and as its mission expanded, it was renamed the National Energy Research Supercomputing Center. Based at LLNL, Hines said her first real job was quite an experience.

“Oh my gosh, I was 18 years old working on super computers and peripherals equipment,” she said. “It was uncharted territory for me, but I took the challenge because I knew it would help me have a better life”.

In 1985, the NMFECC Operations Group had an opening on the second shift and shift lead William Harris encouraged her to apply.  I got the job, “I went from fixing supercomputers and peripherals equipment to monitoring the mass storage, computing systems and the network as an LLNL computer operator,” she said.

She spent seven years in operations and in 1992 she accepted a computer support technologist job where she provided technical support to both NERSC's Computer Support Group and ESnet's Network Engineering Services Group. At the time, ESnet was part of the computing center and Hines spent her time supporting both the NMFECC and the network.

Photo of people standing around Cray-2 supercomputer

Yvonne Hines (farthest right) poses with "Bubbles," the Cray-2 supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

In 1996, DOE made the decision to move NERSC and ESnet to Berkeley Lab and in the process ESnet became a standalone department in Computing Sciences. Hines also made a move into the Network Engineering Services Group where her responsibilities included the configuration and management of ESnet’s global network and general network engineering duties. 

She was lucky, she said, to have the support of her husband Barry of 32-plus years and to be mentored by and associated to, some very talented coworkers.

Looking back on the biggest change, Hines said that when she joined the organization, West Star IV and V satellite links provided the connectivity between the computing center and the other labs. The 56 Kbps links were in place until 1989 when the network switched to T1 lines, which provided speeds of 1.5 Mbps – nearly 30 times the bandwidth of the old links. “Now we’re up to 100+ Gbps,” she said. “We’ve come a long way.”

After she retires early next year, Hines and her husband Barry plan to move to Washington to be near her daughter, who is expecting her fourth daughter. They’ll try living in the Port Orchard and Gig Harbor areas before settling in for good.

In addition to spending time with husband Barry their four children and 10 grandchildren  (two more are due within the next 30 days), she will also volunteer to help students learn to read using the “Spell to Write & Read” language arts program.  “I enjoy helping others as I have been helped," she said.